Sunday, October 24, 2010

Punishment and Rewards

Those of you who know me well know that I have been through a very challenging year as I have made major changes in the way I am managing my chronic health problems. The changes are a very good thing, but the process has been a brutal, punishing event. It has taken all the courage and guts I have been able to muster to get through the countless weeks of misery. During the past 7 months I have been a grump, insufficiently attentive and loving to friends and family, neglectful of life's little details, and only marginally able to do the things that typically bring great joy and satisfaction to my life. Through it all my dearest friends and family have been exceptionally patient and caring, even when it wasn't easy for them to do so. I consider myself very fortunate to have such amazing people in my life and am grateful for their care.

Through this healing journey, there have been moments of joy which have empowered me with enough beauty and strength to endure the tough times. The first came back in June when my dear friend Diana once again welcomed me into her home and helped me laugh as we knit together in the company of delightful friends at the 3rd Annual Rustic Tarts & Old Farts Gathering. I was desperately sick at the time, but was blessed to have enough energy to not only knit with friends but also to make shorts visits to Gettysburg, Harper's Ferry, Antietam, and Lexington, VA -- all Civil War history sites that I have wanted to explore. Without Diana and Tony (and Mom & Dad) I would not have had this glorious experience, which sustained me all summer.

I made it through the long, hot summer by pretty much staying indoors where the air-conditioning keep me cool. I can't say that I accomplished much. Even my knitting and tatting have been languishing -- a rare thing! Now that fall has finally arrived and the temperatures have moderated I want nothing more than to get out of the house and get back out in nature. Let's just say I need to get my soul filled up for the next phase of my journey which will take me through the winter. My reward for a long miserable summer was a two-day excursion to the North Carolina High Country and the Blue Ridge Parkway earlier this week. My newest BFF Paula and I escaped earlier this week to Boone, NC and the surrounding area for a little taste of Autumn in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I'm still editing photos and thinking about all the places we went and things we experienced so it will be a few days before I can share more, but I thought I'd start with just a couple of photos of the fall colors (Grandfather Mountain and the Linville River near the BRP Visitor Center). I'll post more later after I recover from the nasty respiratory virus I came down with after I got back. Punishment - reward - punishment... a never-ending cycle! But, Paula and I had a great time and that's all that really matters!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Falling in Love with Fall

During the last couple of years I have overcome my I-lived-in-Utah-and-Fall-means-it-will-snow-soon aversion and have fallen in love with Fall all over again. Things got cooked up last year with a couple of trips to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in late October. This year, both the fall colors and I hit the Park sooner, camera and tree identification book in hand, ready to savor the season. My most recent adventure led me back to the Smokies and up to Newfound Gap on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line where the Appalachian Trail crosses over.

The weather forecast was for clouds and ultimately rain. By the time I got to the Park the clouds had parted and the sky was sunny and crystal blue for the lower and mid-elevations. The skies did cloud over by the time I reached Morton overlook and I got a little drizzle at Newfound Gap but it really didn't matter as the trees were stunning! I took an excessive amount of photos without guilt thanks to the digital era and photo editing software. Even shots I doubted would turn out could be rescued with a few mouse clicks. WooHoo!

Despite the gray skies and clouds over the North Carolina side of the park, the view from Newfound Gap was amazing. There was a fairly large sugar maple tree that was ablaze in a golden orange hue that reminded me of Tennessee orange. There was fierce competition from visitors to capture the perfect photo by that tree. I had to compete to get my shots with no people in them!

On my way back down the mountain I took the little River Road all the way to the Townsend Entrance. This Past Spring & Summer the NPS received enough funding from various sources to do several major repaving and renovation projects in the park. Included was a major overhaul to a favorite waterfall and swimming hole area known as the Sinks. I just had to stop and check it out. The new overlook is wonderful, yet you could still access the cliffs without much trouble. There was more color at the Sinks than I expected, but I especially was impressed by the strong red hues in a small white oak tree that was growing out of a cliff. Amazing!

It was early in the color season so most of the leaves were still on the trees. Even still, I found a few lovely specimens perched on the cut-stone steps at the Sinks that just begged to be photographed. Such beauty in simple things! It's good to be back in the Smokies in the Fall. I love it!